Patricia Sweetow Gallery is pleased to present Bay Area artist Jamie Vasta with her new series, Femme. In her fourth exhibition at the gallery Vasta immortalizes local drag and burlesque personalities in radiant glitter-on-wood portraits. Also on view, Party People, Hollywood Snapshots: 1949 - 1955, vintage photographs from the collection of Barry Harrison. Exhibition dates: November 7 through December 21, 2013. Reception: November 7, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.

Inspired by 17th century royal portraiture and 19th century society portraits, Jamie Vasta staged costumed performers who have become fixtures in the shrinking San Francisco burlesque and drag communities. Her subjects include locals such as Fauxnique, Mission District resident and winner of the Miss Trannyshack Pageant, Kitty Von Quim, Bush Street barista and regular El Rio burlesque dancer, and Bunny Pistol, director of Barbary Coast Burlesque at the historic jazz club Yoshi’s. These drag and burlesque queens are known for their performances that explore the limits of femininity. “Part of what brought me to the Bay Area years ago was the vibrant arts community, and I want pay homage to that. I can’t think of a more apt personification of glitter than these performers, in all their glitz and hauteur,” says Vasta.

Jamie Vasta has taken the visual arts to new heights with her glitter on panel works. Her insouciant medium is fine-tuned to accentuate narrative as in her first exhibition Mustn't, 2007. Vasta began with Angela Carter's feminist reframing of fairy tales, and ended with a magical landscape where women with mystical powers cavort in deadly play. Vasta's second exhibition at the gallery looked at adolescent females posed with their trophy kill proudly displayed. Jamie Vasta then presented her most complex series to date, After Caravaggio, a contemporary reframing of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio's historic paintings composed with her coterie of friends and colleagues with props of today, turning gender, and context on end.

Reviews of Vasta's works include Art in America, Art Forum, art LTD, Modern Art Obsession, The Boston Globe, New York Times, SF Weekly, and The Bay Guardian. She received her MFA from California College of the Arts and is included in public and private collections, with a recent acquisition from the Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley.

PSG will also present vintage photographs from the private collection of Barry Harrison. On view are 24 photographs from a photo album of 178 black and white photographs documenting the vibrant gay subculture that flourished in Hollywood after WWII. The title of the exhibition describes the content well, Party People, Hollywood Snapshots: 1949-1955.

The photographer and locations are unknown. Some of the guests are identified by first and last name in handwritten captions. Others are more cryptic: “Bill A.” and “Bob B.” Many of the partygoers show up year after year (in different drag, of course). As amusing and entertaining as these photos are, there’s something serious going on. These people were challenging the strict gender norms of the day, and in doing so, engaged in a glamorous act of defiance.

While they pushed the boundaries of gender identity in Hollywood, the Under Secretary of State John Peurifoy was testifying before a Senate committee in Washington about a "homosexual underground" in the State Department. With the help of Joe McCarthy, he ignited the "Lavender scare" in 1950.

At the time, homosexuality was classified as a mental illness. Gay men and lesbians were considered susceptible to blackmail, thus constituting a security risk. In 1953, President Eisenhower ordered the firing of every gay man and lesbian woman working for the government. The resulting purge ended careers, ruined lives, and pushed many to suicide.

Patricia Sweetow Gallery
77 Geary Street, Mezzanine
San Francisco (CA) 94108 United States
Tel. +1 (415) 7885126

Opening hours
Tuesday - Saturday
From 11:00am to 5:30pm

Related images

  1. Jamie Vasta, Kiss Me Kate, 2013, glitter on wood, 21 x 16.5 inches
  2. Jamie Vasta, Bunny Pistol, 2013, glitter on wood, 21 x 16.5 inches
  3. Jamie Vasta, Sarah Campbell, full, 2013, glitter on wood, 21 x 16.5 inches
  4. Jamie Vasta, Dollya, 2013, glitter on wood, 20 x 16 inches
  5. Jamie Vasta, Kitty von Quim, 2013, glitter on wood, 21 x 16.5 inches
  6. Jamie Vasta, Sgt Die Weis, 2013, glitter on wood, 21 x 16.5 inches